A welcoming community accepts that some people are more sociable than others – it seems the same is true for bacteria
. Here different species (with genetic tweaks to make them glow in different colours) are thriving together. Their ‘structured’ living environment – a tiny ecosystem full of nooks and crannies – gives them a choice of privacy and society, helping local communities (rounded shapes) to bloom. Using mathematical models
, researchers predict designs that allow social bacteria to exchange chemical signals, while others enjoy isolation – the overall community grows in population and diversity. Along with the alarming conclusion that bubble-like crevices in kitchen sponges make ideal bacterial homes, researchers can use these insights to grow vibrant microscopic communities, potentially spotting ways to tackle harmful biofilms
in public spaces like hospitals.
Written by John Ankers
A former researcher in systems biology, John is now an online biology tutor and professional coach supporting the wellbeing of scientists and NHS professionals. He's writing, too, of course.